2019: Three Hundred and Forty Four

I love watching cricket and reading about cricket. I’ve played the sport, and enjoyed that too. Hopefully I get back to playing it soon, but in the meanwhile, I satiate my thirst for the sport by watching as many matches and highlights as I can, and reading everything I can find about it on the internet. In several ways, my relationship with cricket perfectly encapsulates my relationship with all sport: I’m thrown into it as a child by an adult, I play it, I fall in love with it, I play it to a particular level and give up, but keep in touch by playing occasionally, and end up reading/following the sport like a madman. More crucially: I follow it to learn the statistics.

I don’t know what it is about statistics that make me go crazy. I love knowing how players perform mathematically. It’s why one of my favourite subreddits is dataisbeautiful, which posts these amazing statistical expositions presented beautifully.

I’ve rediscovered my love for cricket in recent years. ESPNCricinfo has helped, as has the rise of rival websites which offer different commentary features and featured statistics to latch on to. Aside from that, I think the sheer nostalgia of learning the stories behind matches I enjoyed as a child has really fueled the passion. Nothing, however, has made me more committed to following the sport than my cricket-crazy roommate, who lives and breathes 2003/04 cricket like its nobody’s business.

This quest to follow cricket more played a pivotal role in my life when I got to University. I used to follow the global edition of ESPNCricinfo, but switched over to the Indian website after entering campus. Karnataka performed ridiculously well in my first-year, and as someone who is a Kannadiga who was separated from Bangalore and everything he associated with his Kannadiga identity, I found Ranji Trophy cricket becoming something I could latch on to. It became something I found comfort in. The worst feeling has become reading about Karnataka losing a non-televised match. It’s truly awful.

Of course, I’m joyful at this season so far. The team has won the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and the Vijay Hazare Trophy. They enter the Ranji Trophy season with a lot of confidence. But as with every year, this competition is relentless, long, and challenging. I’m hopeful that we will win. And then win the Irani Cup. But you can never tell.

I’ll be following along intently.

However, what I will be following along more for, are the stories. The Ranji Trophy season, because it’s spread over a larger time-frame than competitions like the IPL, provides an opportunity to better get to know about players’ temperaments and players’ stories. It also allows cricket journalists to go beyond players: into the governance structures and association office-bearers, into profiling support staff and curators. It is in this journalism that I find the most joy, for it tells stories of those who are ignored often in the entire spectacle that is cricket.

In players too, there’s so much to know – because there’s such a range of experiences competing against each other.

The Ranji Trophy is one of the most beautiful tournaments I have seen. I love the format, though I think there is room for improvement. I enjoy the opportunity it provides for the Indian public to get to know players who may never don the Indian cap, but are successes for their State.

Most of all, I love that it helps us identify and enjoy cricketing stories and cultures, and how distinct they are from State-to-State. For me, that makes watching the Indian cricket team play a test match more enjoyable, because you see strategies and cultures merging together into one dressing room to represent the nation. Selection is based on a number of factors, but the Ranji Trophy performance is right up there, and often, I’ve marvelled at a players’ numbers leading up to a Test position rather than the Test performance itself.

There’s a tenacity to the tournament that is now promoting a return to the competition for players who are on national-duty. You see more players representing India and their State on back-to-back days, which says a lot about how competitive team selection is, but also how dedicated players are becoming to proving themselves day-in, day-out.

That’s helpful for the sport.

There’s a lot to critique about the tournament, and enough has been written about that. For me, though, there’s a lot more to enjoy about it.

Let me know what you think!

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